Smart Growth for Vernon, CT
McCoy has personal intern to help with communications, research

By Suzanne Carlson
Journal Inquirer
Published: Wednesday, April 13, 2011 12:44 PM EDT

VERNON — In addition to an executive assistant who earns nearly $67,000 per year, Mayor Jason L. McCoy has been paying $26.78 per hour of taxpayer money for a personal intern whose only work experience is in Republican political campaigns.

During the past few months, McCoy has described his new personal assistant, Christopher D. Bandecchi, in a variety of ways: as an unpaid intern, an intern who receives a stipend, a paid intern, and a temporary employee.

When questioned about the distinction Friday, McCoy said Bandecchi is both an intern and a temporary employee, but that he doesn’t know the name of the temporary agency from which he was hired.

“In this case, he’s both,” McCoy said.

Bandecchi has been seen trailing McCoy around Town Hall and the Capitol in Hartford and his workstation is prominently located on the third floor, but town employees and Town Council members have said they were never introduced to him and some were unaware of his existence.

Employees and council members reported first seeing Bandecchi snapping photographs of McCoy at a toy fundraising drive before Christmas.

Even Town Administrator John D. Ward and Assistant Town Administrator Peter Graczykowski said they were unsure of Bandecchi’s last name.

Bandecchi doesn’t speak to or acknowledge other town employees and only reports to McCoy, according to numerous town employees.

When asked recently what his internship with the town was for, Bandecchi replied, “Mayor McCoy.”

Bandecchi worked for other Republicans

In response to a freedom-of-information request by the Journal Inquirer, Graczykowski provided Bandecchi’s full name, his application for employment, and a copy of his resume.

Copies of Bandecchi’s job description and some form of agreement or contract with the town were not provided because such documents do not exist, Graczykowski said.

It is not clear what budget account Bandecchi is being paid out of, and Graczykowski did not return repeated requests for comment.

According to his application dated Dec. 17, Bandecchi graduated from Lyman Hall High School in Wallingford in 2003 and received a bachelor’s degree in political science from Southern Connecticut State University in 2010. He is pursuing a master’s degree in political science with a concentration in public policy and administration at SCSU, and is expecting to graduate in May 2012.

From January to November 2010, Bandecchi worked as the “eCampaign Director” for Republican Thomas C. Foley’s failed gubernatorial campaign, according to his resume.

His responsibilities included creating and distributing press releases, newsletters, and media advisories; maintaining the campaign website; managing Foley’s Flickr, Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, and other social networking sites; assisting campaign consultants; maintaining voter identification programs and databases; and field work at campaign events.

Bandecchi said he earned $3,750 per month and worked full time from 60 to 90 hours per week for the campaign. At 75 hours per week, Bandecchi’s salary was roughly $12.50 per hour.

Bandecchi spent two months from November 2009 to January 2010 working as the political database manager for Foley’s Senate campaign against former Democratic Sen. Christopher J. Dodd, before former Gov. M. Jodi Rell announced she would not run for re-election and Foley dropped out of the Senate race to run for governor.

His responsibilities included maintaining voter databases, training staff, providing assistance at events, and door-to-door canvassing for Rep. Laura Hoydick, R-Stratford.

He said he was compensated $1,250 per month and worked on a part-time basis, 30 to 50 hours per week. At 40 hours per week, Bandecchi’s salary was $7.81 per hour.

Prior to his jobs for Foley, Bandecchi was a full-time unpaid intern for the Republican State Central Committee in the summer of 2009. Between 2005 and 2010, he worked in retail and as a machinist and assembler.

$49,000 annual paycheck

Because Bandecchi does not have a job description or contract on file, it is unclear what he does in Vernon Town Hall or how long he will be doing it for. McCoy has an executive assistant, former Republican Mayor Diane Wheelock, who is paid $66,980 per year.

When asked what services Bandecchi was providing to the town, Ward said he was helping out with “office and constituent work.”

And when asked if Bandecchi was a public relations specialist, Ward replied, “I gave you your answer.”

McCoy said Friday that, “he’s assisting me on communications, he’s helped me with research and other things… different areas that might be outside of what other people do. And he has a good background in government.”

Bandecchi’s hours vary, McCoy said, but he estimated that he works between 30 to 40 hours on average.

At $26.78 per hour, 35 hours per week, Bandecchi would earn $48,740 per year, and it is unclear what benefits he might receive from the temporary employment agency.

On an hourly basis, Bandecchi earns more than many other town employees, including part-time administrative secretaries, who earn between $17 and $21 per hour, the assistant town clerks, who earn roughly $22.50 to $26 an hour, and the town planner’s administrative assistant, who earns about $23 per hour.

When asked if Bandecchi’s salary amount was wrong on town information, McCoy said it wasn’t and, “apparently that’s what we’re paying him. …I wasn’t sure exactly what he’s making… whatever his hours are, his hours are. He performs a lot of tasks.

“I think it’s an appropriate use of tax money. …If people don’t like it, we’re just trying to serve the people in the town, do the best job we can,” McCoy said.

When asked if he thought it would be inappropriate for Bandecchi’s time and photographs be used for personal campaigning, McCoy replied that, “part of the problem is when you’re in an elected position, you’re also in a managerial position. Photographs and public people can cross over… you have an elected mayor, you don’t have a town manager. So it’s hard for me. I don’t know how you can distinguish between them or if somebody would distinguish between them,” McCoy said.

“Am I using taxpayer funds for my campaign? My record’s my record. I got to live with it either way. …I think you want me to distinguish between the two and I don’t think you can,” he added.